London: On Her Majesty’s Salt Beef Service
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‘Allo ‘allo then! What ‘ave we ‘ere? A lovely bit of salt beef guvnah? Smashing.
Yes, my Britishisms are awful when written down, but you should hear my faux Cockney accent these days. Straight out of Dickens, or some Michael Caine flick.
That’s right my lovelies, I’ve finally returned from London, the seat of HRH’s empire, where salt beef rules the waves, hand carved in several select locations around town.
First, you should all know what salt beef is. Salt beef is corned beef. The same thing…different name. In fact, the corn in corned beef refers to “corns” or kernels of salt, and the only corn that comes near salt beef in the United States, it that which is force fed to the cattle in feedlots. British salt beef, by comparison, comes from grass fed cattle, who roam the lush pastures of the British Isles munching away happily.
Now, while the UK has a dubious reputation as a place to eat…the land of grey, lifeless, spiceless dishes…I’m happy to report that the delicatessen is excellent. The salt beef is almost always barrel cured, sometimes for as long as three weeks, and has a mild, brackish flavor that tastes of the sea. The tongue, sliced from the Ox, is the best I have had anywhere, thick, hand carved luxurious rounds of fatty meat that is absolutely decadent and incredible. There’s fantastic chopped liver (served with chopped egg and onion), killer matzo ball and kreplach soups, and squares of splendid lokshen pudding. The mustard is all hot, as in fiery Dijon type spice, and when you slather it on as I do, you’re in for a wasabi style sinus clearing.
Now, I could go on about the deli men I met, or the differences in the evolution of the deli in London. I could rip into the rye bread, which is beyond terrible, and lacks any rye qualities whatsoever, but I won’t. It’s Sunday, I’ve been working for the whole afternoon, and I have a movie to catch. So I’ll just present this little film below and leave you all to hit play. Check out the photos of the foods, see the addresses below, and buy a cheap ticket over the pond to visit Ole Blighty. There’s some quality deli waiting for you.
(International calls are +44)
Britain’s First and Best Beigel Shop
155 Brick Lane, Spitalfields
London, E1 6SB
020 7729 0826
Brick Lane Beigel Bake
159 Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets
London, E1 6SB
020 7729 0616
*Both of these are 24 hr places in the old Jewish section of town, now a mix between Bangledeshi gangland and hipster heaven. Not kosher, or even remotely kosher style, but you can get a salt beef sandwich or on a beigel for cheaper than a pint…after a few pints. So go on, get mashed up like Amy Winehouse and soak it up with some meat.
B & K Salt Beef Bar Map
11 Hanson House Whitchurch Lane
London, HA8 6NL
020 8952 8204
*John Georgiou is the meanest, leanest deli man in London. He’s the son of a great deli man, and now raises younger deli men. He carves like a surgeon, and his salt beef is absolutely the most gorgeous stuff you can pay for.
130 Golders Green Road
London NW11 8HB
020 8455 1338
New! 313 Hale Lane,
Edgware, Middx HA8 7AX
020 8958 2229
*For years, Bloom’s was the top kosher deli in the old East End. The original closed a decade back, but the second location, in the heavily Jewish Golder’s Green, is still kicking and tastes even better after a recent renovation.
The Brass Rail Salt Beef Bar
400 Oxford Street
London, W1A 1AB, UK
+44 800 123400
*The Brass Rail is an institution, located in the food hall of Selfridge’s, the second ritziest department store in London. You can have a lovely salt beef or tongue, then go off and buy a $500 truffle or a $12,000 Gucci bag. Only for discerning tastes.
79 Baker Street, W1U 6RG
020 7486 0035
*Once upon a time, Reuben’s was part of the Reuben’s chain from Montreal and Toronto, but it has been kosher, and wonderfully run by the Hassan family for many years now. The son, Tam Hassan is a fantastic chef, and has elevated kosher deli to new heights. The chicken soup is so yellow and schmaltzy, you could be eating butter.
29-31 St Johns Wood High Street
Tel: 020 7722 1869
Plus several other locations
*Harry Morgan’s, or “Harry’s”, is the deli where high end London and working Jewish London meet. On a given Saturday, when the lunch line can erupt into fistfights, you could find old pensioners sitting next to George Michael or Roman Abramovich. Everything is top quality and made fresh, including stellar tongue, fantastic chicken soup, and even p’tcha, the calf’s food jelly I’ve only seen in France. Plus, you can buy the cool dishes with the words of Jewish food written on them.
Also, those wishing to see Jewish London’s past should book a tour with Clive Bettington, of the Jewish East End Celebration Society.
Check them out at www.jeecs.org.uk
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